Hepatitis C Patient Education Series: What Should I Tell My Family?

A hepatitis C diagnosis often comes as a surprise to patients, considering that up to three out of four people with this virus don’t know they have it. It’s not that patients are ignoring their disease status, rather the issue is that 70-80% of people with hepatitis C do not have any symptoms until the disease is in an advanced state.

A common scenario for hepatitis C detection comes after routine bloodwork indicates that liver function and liver enzyme levels are not normal. With hepatitis being a “silent” disease, it makes sense that all Baby Boomers are now urged to get a one-time screening test for hepatitis C. Of course, people of any age should also get tested if they have any risk factors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here’s who should be tested for hepatitis C:

  • Anyone born between 1945 and 1965
  • Anyone who had a blood transfusion prior to 1992
  • Anyone who injected drugs, even if it was just once or many years ago
  • Those with chronic liver disease and HIV or AIDS
  • Anyone with an abnormal liver test or liver disease
  • Those who may have been exposed to blood from a person who has hepatitis C
  • Those on hemodialysis
  • Anyone born to a mother with hepatitis C

When a patient is diagnosed and learns what their treatment process will be, the next questions often pertain to whether or not their loved ones are also at risk from this disease. Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease, thus there is risk of the disease having been spread to certain people in the patient’s life, chiefly:

  • Sex partner(s)
  • Anyone who shared IV drug needles
  • Household members (unlikely, but possible if there is any blood contact)

These people should definitely be informed, so they can get tested themselves, if appropriate. In addition, a newly diagnosed patient will probably also find it comforting to inform supportive loved ones about their diagnosis. These loved ones can offer support, as well as assistance during the treatment process. It will be comforting for the patient and their loved ones to know that the current medications available to treat hepatitis C have an extremely high cure rate, in some cases up to 99%.

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